By Law Mefor
Suddenly, the much awaited 2023 General Election in Nigeria is upon us. Months ago, it was as if the nation awaited a whole decade. Yet, in five months or thereabout, the political parties will be presenting their candidates to Nigerians for the purpose of choosing President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.
In the build up all the while, two recurring decimals have been zoning and the insistence of the South East to clinch the presidential tickets of the two leading political parties, namely, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The push has been on even before the 2019 Presidential election, which paved the way for the zone to produce the Vice Presidential candidate in the person of Mr. Peter Obi who paired with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in that year’s election circle. This time around, the push has been even more fervent and has reached a crescendo, leading to the eruption of the questions being raised about the desirability of a Nigerian President of South East extraction.
Those leading this rather noble campaign (for Nigeria’s President of South East extraction) have focused on the argument pertaining to the quest but have paid very little attention if at all, to factors that would make its realization possible/impossible. This is the crux of the argument of Professor Udenta O. Udenta, the Conflict and Peace expert and leading political actor who happens to be of South East extraction as well.
In his recent television appearances the former National Secretary of Alliance for Democracy when that party was one of the three with which the nation revived the current democratic dispensation, Professor Udenta has called attention to what he sees as the complex problems surrounding the quest for Nigeria’s President of South extraction due to inclement political climate and other untoward environmental forces.
Udenta’s argument needs to be put in perspective and weighed against its merit in some dispassionate manner.
There are two sets of factors that Udenta conceptualized and deployed to ground his argument. He wondered why some political actors should hinge the call for rotation of presidential power to South Nigeria rather than to South East as the only zone yet to produce the President from the Southern divide. Udenta’s position is that it amounted to political subterfuge to leave the ticket open to scramble to the entire South rather to a specific zone requiring restitution of cumulative historical injustices. To him and plausibly too, leaving the ticket open to the three zones therein the South cannot be called zoning, rather it becomes an exercise in concealment and deflection. Udenta believes that with the inherent dishonesty of politicians, the South East would be shortchanged yet again and by then, it would be too late.
Professor Udenta has traced the sacrifices of the South East in the making and evolution of the current democratic dispensation and wondered why ceding the presidential tickets of the two major political parties to the South-East as happened for the South West in 1999, would be a big deal if the political class is actually sincere about it. For him therefore, if it is not going to the South East outrightly, the zone would have been betrayed by her Southern political allies. The zone should better reposition to negotiate its interest and political survival in the post-2023 Nigeria, whether or not it produces the nation’s President.
Udenta has also further argued that if the above scenario were to unfold – the betrayal of the South East – then the best chance the Peoples Democratic Party has of returning to power in 2023 would be zoning its presidential ticket to the North East, where Governor Bala Mohammed and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have openly declared their intent to run. Between the two gladiators, Udenta has also embraced Bala Mohammed’s candidacy as a strategic rearguard manoeuvre, describing him as a young, strong, detribalised and visionary leader with very deep political savvy, given his construct of the Doctrine of Necessity that favoured President Goodluck Jonathan, his pan-national leadership of the FCT as a detribalized minister and his outstanding record of service in Bauchi; indeed one leader who could pull the nation back from the precipice and put her back on the path to development.
Udenta blamed a congruence of overarching forces for substantially de- marketing the South East zone, a situation that eventually opened the space for non-state actors to threaten the region’s social fabric and enviable record as hitherto the most peaceful zone in the country, and thus playing into the hands of those who are not even well disposed to the idea of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. There is little doubt that in a complex and diverse polity such as Nigeria’s there are still many who will be clinging on to the steady social decomposition in the region and using that in raising fears in the minds of many over the safety of the country’s unity under a South-East Presidency.
Udenta further contends that the phenomenon of UGM and ESN is intensely disruptive given that these non- state forces have deeply inserted themselves into the region’s physical domain and spiritual core in combination with possibly fifth columnists and false flag operatives is rendering the South-East almost ungovernable, with ungoverned space growing and faultlines also escalating. Udenta thus underscores the noted tension between a region in the throes of convulsive social eruption and the shrewd calculation of a political party that wants to win election with massive voter turn out deciding to invest its fortunes in the hands of a presidential candidate from such a potentially vote suppressed environment.
The logical sequencing of Udenta’s political thought is thus clear with a dialectical trajectory that is easy to underscore: the perfidy of the Southern political elite in obfuscating the SE zone’s specific clarion call on power rotation. Udenta thus implied that the South West hegemonic bloc that benefitted from the South East sacrifices in 1998- 1999 is morally disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election, and debilitating SE environmental circumstances that could circumvent and scuttle its regional presidential aspiration.
In this developing scenario Udenta’s strategic calculation is for the South East to begin the process of negotiating its political future and thus mainstreaming its core regional interests in the post 2023 dispensation by partnering with Gov Bala Mohammed in a handshake between two politically depressed zones in relation to the exercise of presidential power and not wait till it’s too late and end up with bitter, had- we -known regret. In essence, the logic of Udenta’s political thought privileges the flowering of South- East presidential aspiration failing which the embrace of Bala Mohammed’s progressive politics of accommodation and inclusion is the next best thing for the South-East region.
Professor Udenta’s frank portrayal of the South-East political condition is intriguing. In the face of all this, can anybody factually fault Professor Udenta’s compelling argument about the doublespeak of Southern political leaders, the growing political hegemony of the South West and North West, the decomposition of the South East social, political and economic fabric, the haunting reality that the two major political parties may indeed by- pass the zone in the selection of their presidential candidate and the need for a rearguard political strategy that produces an acceptable political outcome for the South-East, post 2023 by providing the plank on which to build for a more empowered political future in no distant time.Time, which is already in its nick, shall tell.
***Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, writes from Abuja. Reach him on [email protected]; Twitter: @LawMefor1; Tel.09056424375